QotW: What’s the hardest repair job you’ve done on a JNC?

04_Isuzu 117 engine

It’s Labor Day here in the US, so as you’re enjoying a day off from your real job why not tell us about your other job, the one in the garage? Sure, Japanese cars are famously easy to work on and extremely logical in layout, but once in a while, there’s still a confounding, daunting task that requires blood, sweat and knuckle skin.

What’s the hardest repair job you’ve done on a JNC?

What say you, dear reader? As always, the most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What’s your most prized JNC part?” 

020-R3a-790a_Toyota Celica A20 RS-Watanabe

This week’s selection was filled with rare parts, customizations, and lucky breaks. The battle came down to Leon Dixon‘s theft deterrent sensor on an anniversary RX-7 and Juppe‘s 1975 Celica radio delete blank. In the end, the radio delete seemed fitting since these panels would have been in low production, and chucked for a ham radio receiver back in the day. Congrats to Juppe for keeping the blank installed and letting the TA22 provide the natural roaring tunes of an R series engine sing in the upper reaches of RPM bliss.

Most expensive part would be my set NOS Toyota Tosco (pre-TRD) wheels. Never been fitted with tyres. Stumbled upon them on Ebay a few years ago, strangely there where hardly any bids.

Most special part for me is the original radio hole cover of my ’75 TA22. So in ’75 you have a base model Celica, which was so cheap it didn’t even come with a radio, no one ever fitted a radio (and thankfully never cut the dash to fit a modern one), and left the cover in position all the time.

Omedetou, your comment has earned you a set of decals from the JNC Shop!

JNC Decal smash

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22 Responses to QotW: What’s the hardest repair job you’ve done on a JNC?

  1. Parrot says:

    Lifting a manual C52 FWD gearbox up and into the back of a 4AGE in an AE82. The offset differential means the weight is off centre. That was seriously hell.

    • Dillan says:

      This. Having done this on an AW11 with a 4age I can now say this job is a million times easier with the engine out of the car.
      Replacing the timing belt and crank seals on an AW11 would have to be a very close second though.

      • Parrot says:

        I remember it as if it were yesterday. After multiple attempts trying to lift it on a trolley jack only for it to slip off at the last moment. Then physically lifting it, arching the back with the back of the skull grinding into the driveway…… I think my wife appreciated the effort.

  2. Kiran says:

    Fixing that old radio stations on my cordia it was a total pain in the ass as the old owner actually super glued it there and the wires were all shot aswell as the dials being pressed in so much until they got stuck in place it rivals rebuilding the 4g32 and upgrading the single down draft carb to two mikuni twin barrels and with everything about this car was a pain in the ass as it was impossible to get parts (except the engine, whew!) any cosmetic bit is rare af and finding parts for the original 83 radio was hard af as nearly everyone upgraded them immediately when they bought it I ended up finding one and bringing it back home as I bought it from some gangster owned junkyard when I went on a parts hunting trip to Australia

  3. Taylor says:

    I’ve only had my z31 for two months. Let me get back to you after I attempt to replace the steering rack and tie rod ends.

  4. Ant says:

    I managed to make the mechanically simple job of changing the clutch slave cylinder on my old MX-5 incredibly difficult by rounding off the bolt holding it to the gearbox. I am not good at wrenching, but I was good enough to bleed the system, which gave me just enough fluid to take it to a shop to have it swapped professionally (and more expensively).

  5. Speedie says:

    The hardest by far was the replacement of the front struts on my 82 Supra L-Type. I had just purchased the car (which involved a shady character and a lawyer, a story for a future JNC question) and after having it checked by my Toyota mechanic discovered it needed a new radiator, cam box seals, and water pump. It also needed new struts. Having recently done the struts on my old BMW 2002 I figured I could tackle that job on my own. Now back in the eighties they actually made the struts to be serviceable where you could replace the strut internals with a new piston insert. This was a lot less expensive than a new strut so I went that route. Seemed easy enough. Did I mention the car had somewhere north of 120K on it (actual mileage unknown since the odometer cable was broken, I replaced that too BTW) and is was a winter driven New England car? After I managed to expose the lower mounting bolts which looked like small mounds of rust, I actually managed to get the bolts off without breaking anything. That job was done in my driveway and as there was a lot of swearing, so my wife had to keep the children inside. Once out I then had to unscrew the top of the strut housing, which from its rust, looked like it had been welded on. That job was done in my basement which forced my wife to move the children outside. For some reason I thought the old strut would also be an insert but much to my surprise it was not and there ensued a great leakage of hydraulic oil over the shop bench and floor when the top finally gave way. I will say that once the mess was cleaned up the new insert fit perfectly and the reassembly, with all new bolts, was fairly easy. After all those initial repairs I went on to drive the car for an additional 100K miles (documented with that new odometer cable!) with only oil changes and tires. Finally had to let the car go when the rear axle whine was louder than the radio.

    • Kiran says:

      Wow you kept it for such a small amount of time… I’ve had my cordia for over 10 years now and it started with 28k miles and I bought it from some fatso who just wanted 2 packs of Coke for it now I’ve driven it over 430k miles now and it’s my favourite car in my collection of a supra turbo A, fiat x19, 260z(serial no.000088), mr2 supercharged and a lancia beta 2000 supercharged

  6. Derrick says:

    Im currenty in mid repair but currently im slowly replacing the whole frame and floor in my 1968 datsun 1000 deluxe with the frame and floor of another.
    The newest one i aquired is fairly rust free other then the floor has some holes and the front end hit something. My parts car has a good floor and frame. And will be drilling out every spot weld on both cars and welding each one back together.

  7. Joe Rotz says:

    I took my 72 Fairlady completely apart and put it back together with new parts. Took me ten years.

  8. Greylopht says:

    I would have to say the absolute hardest thing I have ever done to any JNC was..

    Stripping a entire 1993 Subaru Legacy wiring harness down to purely engine management. Want a time consuming project? This is one of them, tracing wires, removing the body interface connection and hard soldering all the connections (around 30). Figuring out how to give it power and get the fuel pump relay working was about the worst.

    Took me a good six months of a few hours a night to get the entire thing stripped, re bundled and then stuffed under the dash of my 1986 GL. I got lucky, it worked out of the box. Many that have tried and not had such good luck. It is the one motor swap I will never forget and by far the most time consuming pain in the butt swap going from a Carburated EA82 to a EJ22 with full OBD 1 engine management.

    All the other things I have done, trans swaps, suspension, rust repair, panel replacement… has not even come close to that multi colored spaghetti mess that is my engine management wiring harness.

    • cesariojpn says:

      I’ve heard it’s much MUCH worse with the Lexus V8 swap to AE86’s. You can’t just drop the engine in and go vroom, you need the ENTIRE wiring harness from the LS, and the thing cannot be hacked in anyway whatsoever. One nick in the wire = COMPLETE FAILURE.

  9. Mercilessmings says:

    None are had if you enjoy your work half as much as me! I’m just say’in……

  10. Sideglide says:

    I bought a used, but good condition AE86 OS Giken Super Clutch that was an all-in-one clutch and flywheel. The whole assembly was lighter than a stock flywheel.

    I took time to drop the transmission, no lift, no spare jack to hold the transmission in place.Just using my arms like a T-rex under the car. The stock junk came out OK, and the Giken slotted in with minimal swearing.

    Get it all buttoned up, turn the car on, try to shift…nothing. nothing engaged. Check fluids, pedal, etc. Had to take the transmission off again (and driveshaft, and mounts, etc.) It looks OK so just took off and installed again, checking everything. Install again and …nothing.

    Did I mention this was my daily driver? Pulled the transmission for a 3rd time, re-installed the stock junk clutch so I could limp the car around while I waited for a replacement stock clutch. The install that was so smooth in the beginning was a 10-day clutch job that netted me no benefits except 3 busted knuckles.

    After all this, the problem was the OS Giken clutch was mis-labeled. It was for an AE92, not an AE86. So the collar the clutch fork pushes on to engage the clutch was not long enough when fitted in a T-50 transmission. In hind sight, I could have taken the collar to a welding shop to extend the collar to work, but didn’t really work it out until everything was all back together (and working).

  11. Tj says:

    Most difficult repair job I’ve ever tackled was replacing the water pump on my ’75 Mitsubishi Galant.

    I replaced it with a modified Starion water pump with a custom made pulley….. that was attached to a 4G63 twin cam

    The bell housing bolt pattern is the same on the 4G63 and the original 4G32 plus the engine mount brackets line up, should bolt straight in, right?

    Yeah, nah

    The firewall needs to be gently massaged with an FBH to clear the cam angle sensor, the throttle body needs to be moved to the other end of the plenum by someone who can weld cast aluminium, hammer the firewall some more, the thermostat housing needs to be relocated to the front of the block, mix and match engine mounts, flywheels and clutch parts from just about every Mitsubishi you can find in a wrecking yard until something works, keep hammering the firewall

    And if you’re a cheapskate like me you need to pick apart the donor wiring loom ripping out whatever you don’t need, find somewhere to mount the stupidly huge and awkwardly shaped airbox and afm and stock ecu then get custom extractors made because there are no off the shelf parts for this motor in rwd

    That firewall could use just a bit more hammer too

  12. Negishi no Keibajo says:

    The starter on my 240Z was getting cantankerous so I bought one to install later. Two days later I go out to the car in the parking lot to head to my graveyard shift. It’s starting to snow and guess what? No start. Luckily I got up early to get some breakfast but now I had an hour and a half to change to stupid starter in an open parking lot in the middle of the night with snow falling. Next comes the campus police with a spotlight on a guy underneath car in the middle of the night. I try to ignore him and press on but I finally start answering his questions with vague mumbles & grunts. Long story short, I made it. On time. Hungry.

  13. Leon says:

    ’89 Toyota Corolla 2E oil pump change. Required a sump to be removed. Removing the sump required the exhaust down-pipe to be removed. Removing the down-pipe required the lower cross member to be removed, which also required the two lower engine mounts to be removed. I’m sure pro mechanics would have done it without all the strain.

    Putting the lot together cost me my left index finger though when I stupidly caught it in the crank pulley (while it was idling)…..

  14. Matthew Cox says:

    rust repair on the frame rails(very popular rust spot by the battery tray) of a 240z! Also, converting to new poly bushings was a major pain, but was definitely worth it. Very happy with the results!

  15. BrianZai says:

    For me, Trying to stop the random squeaks and creaks from my ride. My darling rolla just couldn’t stop complaining especially after leaving her in the hot summer sun lol.

  16. Dchil says:

    Well for me, until I do the timing belt, it would have to be redoing the injector seals on my 1986 Toyota Cressida. The intake manifold folds over the injectors and the fuel lines. The intake manifold splits but first you need to remove the throttle body and IAC. That requires the removal of the crossover pipe for the intake and the half dozen vacuum lines around it.

    I would later discover that the workshop I was doing the work in only had 4 seals in stock, on a 6 cylinder car. After I gave up on those seals I very, very carefully cut some fuel hose to use in the other 2 injectors. This was all going well until 10 o clock when I finally got the car back together and attempted to fire it back up. Cue cries from my work mates to kill the motor because the orings at the top of the injectors had not been replaced (I didn’t know they needed to be replaced…) and I was now spray more fuel at the side of my 5MGE.

    I sleepily ordered in the o rings and the other 2 seals and took the bus home that night. The next night had the car apart in an hour, the seals back in by 8 and the car ready to leave at 10. Until the alternator (the original reason the car was in the workshop that night we discovered the leak) bit the dust and I ran out of electricity 100m up the road. I gave up, ordered a new alternator and the car sat at work for another week while I waited.

    To this day I can swap an alternator on a 5MGE Cressida in 30 mins and rip the injectors out in 1.5 hours.

  17. PathFinder says:

    It has to be getting my dual mikuni solex PHH44 synced and balanced!

  18. Geoff D says:

    I rebuilt the engine in my 1992 300ZX twin turbo.

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